Energy Esports made history when they beat Bravado Gaming 3-0 in the inaugural ESL Africa Championship grand final at rAge to be crowned the first ever official champions of Africa.
There was so much hype going into the four-team finals weekend with global esports brand ESL’s first involvement in an African event, northern and southern African teams were going toe-to-toe in a LAN event for the first time where lag and other excuses would play no part and over R600,000 was up for grabs.
It was almost too much hype, creating a lingering question of whether or not it would be able to live up to everyone’s expectations.
Awesomely, the answer was a resounding yes. The first ESL African Championship was a huge success and not just because a local team ended up winning the thing to officially grant South Africa the bragging rights we’ve claimed for so long.
The event itself was not without its hiccups. During the semi-finals on Friday there was a significant technical delay and, almost more so than when everything was working properly, this proved how well everything had been planned and set up.
There were no holding screens of logos waving in the ewind set to the backdrop of rights-free electronic music. There was a plethora of filler content, from interviews with casters and players to highlight reels of big plays from other ESL events. It was emazing and it made staying tuned in despite the lack of live action all the more enjoyable. South African esports events have been begging for this kind of preparedness. Someone finally delivered.
Ultimately, Energy came out on top, overcoming rivals Bravado to be crowned the first official Counter-Strike: Global Offensive champions of Africa, so we caught up with one of their star players from the final Trevor “kaNibalistic” Morley to get his take on ESL in Africa.
“I was really impressed by the high production value that ESL brought to South Africa, especially with how the stage turned out – it looked amazing. Also, it was the first time I got to play on one of those ESL Maxnomic chairs, which were really comfortable.”
Credit for the stage setup, high quality production value and cushy Maxnomic chairs needs to go to the guys and girls at Kwese who are responsible for broadcasting ESL in Africa.
Unfortunately, as wannabe esports journalists (GLHF: Read: poor people.), we’re still yet to have that heavenly Maxnomic experience, but until that happens we’ll keep convincing ourselves that you don’t need a gaming chair. Our five-year-old, worn down office chairs that sink to the floor every 37 minutes are just as good.
Obviously, with all the hype and loud noises surrounding the event, there was an extra layer of expectation on the players. From fans and sponsors, but also because South Africa’s collective CS:GO ego was on the line against formidable north African opponents on LAN for the first time ever.
“I was pretty nervous to be playing in the center of rAge. I’ve played DGC (now VS Gaming) tournaments there for several years, but playing on a stage of that scale with the title of African champions on the line was terrifying. Luckily, whenever I’m nervous before a game and the game starts my nerves always stop.”
Much of the talk before the event was about the contrasting styles between the slow and patient South Africans and their running and gunning northern counterparts, with very little consensus about which would win out. As Axtremes put it so succinctly in our piece last week, either strategy is effectively the other one’s hard counter.
In the end, the tortoise and the hare fable played out exactly how we hoped it would with both Bravado and Energy comfortably dispatching their opponents in the final four round to set up an all-South African climax. (GLHF: Cue childish giggling.)
“To be honest I was more worried about playing Limitless.gg in the semi-finals than playing Bravado in the finals. I’ve played Bravado and lost to them many times before so I knew what to expect, but the Limitless.gg guys changed so much from the way they played their online games, we were really taken aback.
When they were up 9-1 on Cache as the terrorist side I was getting really worried, but my team was amazing in the way we adapted every round and brought that game back.
I could tell that the north African teams scrim a lot versus European opponents because they have certain aggressive counter-terrorist pushes and timings a lot of EU teams do, and they do it very well. On top of that they have killer aim, so needless to say the games were very hard.”
Going into the final Energy had a lot to prove. That sounds like a ridiculous thing to say about a team that’s just proven it is one of the top two on the continent, but bear with us a second.
These two squads are long time rivals in the South African CS:GO scene. Robby “bLacKpoisoN” Da Loca only joined Energy from Bravado six months before the finals. Think Arthas switching sides midway through Warcraft 3 or Caboose suddenly rocking up in red armour (GLHF: If you don’t get the reference go watch Red vs Blue right now before we have to start confiscating your nerd cards.). Energy won the last time they faced off at LAN, but Bravado superstar Aran “Sonic” Groesbeek had been sick and could barely communicate with his team. Bravado had triumphed the last time they did battle online in the ESEA Open Season 25 South Africa finals.
There was a lot riding on this and that’s even before we get to the $22,000 cheque for first place and the crown as the best team in Africa.
“Everyone was very keen to play the [final] pretty much counting the seconds till we got up on stage, but at the same time I’m sure everyone was nervous in their own way. I don’t think for a second any of my teammates thought we were going to lose the finals, we were all mentally on the same page.
The nice thing about my team is that we love watching Counter-Strike in our free time, so whenever we are all together in a room we usually watch anything Counter-Strike related together and talk about different scenarios in-game, which I personally think helps us in our matches. Besides that we just like to hang around and banter with each other, haha.
We always focus on our own game to try and make sure we make as few mistakes as possible and keep a clear mind. But when you play Bravado in a final every few weeks online you pick up on habits which you can exploit and sometimes those little mistakes lead to big rounds.”
By now, we’re sure you guys know us pretty well and that we get very excited, very quickly. With this in mind, we swiftly moved on to the topic of the balance of power in local CS:GO shifting away from the Boys in Blue. Thankfully, kaNibalistic is more level-headed than we are. And humble to boot.
“Bravado are all really talented players and they can still beat us at any time, but I do believe as a team we are stronger right now and the confidence we have gained from these two wins will definitely benefit us.
At the end of the day you will always have to deal with issues that come up in Counter-Strike and outside of the game, so you really can’t rely on excuses if you want to be the best. Bravado know this as well so I’m sure they will be back stronger.”
With all that said and done, the last pressing topic left to discuss is that of the prize money. A cool $22,000 split among the winning team. What is kaNibalistic going to do with his share? Buy a Ferrari? Use it as a down-payment on the next Activision/Blizzard release? Nope, he wants to use it to get better at Counter-Strike, of course.
“I haven’t decided yet. I would definitely spend it on trying to boot camp in Europe or North America, but it will probably just stay in my bank account.”
For the record, we would’ve used it to pick up one of those sweet, sweet Maxnomic gaming chairs, but that doesn’t matter because our patchy office chairs are fine, our backs are constantly sore for other reasons… THE CHAIRS ARE FINE, OK?
In closing, we’d just like to send out a huge congratulations, not only to African champions Energy, but to all the teams that took part in this historic event and to the good people at Kwese and ESL who put on a show worthy of the occasion.
In the past we’ve often spoken about things that help take our industry to the next level. This was one of those things.